Goma ae 胡麻和え is the clever Japanese side dish dressed with sesame sauce. You will eat more vegetables with Goma ae because Goma ae draws out the vegetables’ natural umami flavour! Furthermore, you can use this sesame dressing for many vegetables not just for Japanese spinach salad.
What is Goma Ae?
Goma is the word for sesame seeds in Japanese and Ae is from the verb Aeru which means to dress vegetables, salad etc. It is also spelled gomaae in some Japanese restaurants. You will find many vegetables dressed with sesame salad dressing. Typical and common vegetables used for gomaae are green beans and spinach.
Goma (sesame seeds)
Sesame seeds are known as nutritious healthy food and used not just in Japan but around the world. No wonder it is popular among the people who eat plant-based foods. Because sesame seeds has the power to enhance appetite, and make foods more delicious in that tiny grain!
Goma sesame seeds are good source of fiber, minerals, plant-based protein, vitamin B and also rich in antioxidants. And Goma ae makes us consume more sesame seeds and by using different types of sesame seeds expand your cooking variation.
Variety of sesame seeds (goma) in Japanese cooking
We use two varieties of sesame seeds; black sesame seeds (kuro goma) and white sesame seeds (shiro goma) in Japanese cooking. Black sesame seeds has a more bold aroma than white sesame seeds and less oily than white sesame seeds. On the other hand, white sesame seeds has a subtle flavour and has more oil than black sesame seeds.
Toasted, Grounded, and paste
You will find toasted sesame seeds, ground sesame seeds, and sesame paste in Japan. Generally speaking, white sesame seeds have a mild flavour and therefore does not choose the ingredients to combine. Toasted white sesame seeds are often grounded and used for Goma ae dressing. Black sesame seeds are more aromatic so it is used for toppings and deep-frying batter. Also, it is used for sweets such as Black sesame ice cream and sesame cookies.
Japanese use ceramic mortar and pestle to grind sesame seeds. They also use them for mashing tofu and grinding yam. There are a variety of designs, sizes, and colours. An all-round good size to have one for the “first-timer” is around 18-20 cm(7-8 inch) in diameter.
Goma ae variations with vegetables
You probably have seen and heard about “Spinach Gomaae” or “Green beans Gomaae”. There are more variations of vegetables. I am going to show you some examples that I have made with different vegetables and different types of sesame seeds.
Goma ae is my favourite way to eat spinach. Also it is an easily available vegetable to try Goma ae. When you cook Spinach, boil water in a large pot and put the stem side of the spinach in the boiling water first for about 30 seconds, by holding the leaves with your hand. Then let the leaves fall in the boiling water for 30 seconds.
Green Beans (sayaingen)
Green beans are also a readily available vegetable even outside of Japan. So this is a great vegetable to use goma ae. I used black sesame seeds for a change.
Japanese mustard spinach (komatsuna)
Komatsuna is known for its impressive nutritional value. It contains vitamin C, calcium and beta carotene. It’s commercially grown in Japan and Taiwan but and you can get Komatsuna from your local Asian/Japanese grocery stores.
Burdock roots (Gobō)
Gobō is a Japanese name for burdock roots. Burdock roots are a good source of potassium, fiber, amino acids, calcium, and antioxidants. It is a popular vegetable for its distinctive flavour in Japan commonly consumed as “Kinpira Gobō“.
You can use gomaae for broccolini, broccoli and carrots as well. Also, you could add walnuts, peanuts, peanut butter, and pine nuts etc to create more variations of the dressings.
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- Japanese mortar and wooden pestle
- 3 tbsp sesame seeds *1
- 1/2 tbsp sugar
- 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp dashi *2
- 200g/3.5oz Spinach *3
- 1 tsp soy sauce
Green Beans (Sayaingen)
- 200g/3.5oz Green beans
Japanese mustard spinach (Komatsuna)
- 200g/3.5oz Japanese mustard spinach
- 1 tsp soy sauce
Gobō burdock roots
- 1 tsp vinegar
- Place the sesame seeds in a Japanese mortar and grind them.
- Add the sugar, soy sauce and dashi. Combine them well altogether and set aside.
Spinach (Hōrensō) and Japaneses mustard spinach (Komatsuna)
- Wash the spinach.
- Boil water in large pot.
- Add the spinach bunch into the boiling water from the stemside first, while holding leaves with your hands. Cook the stem for 30 seconds, then let the leaves to cook for another 30 seconds. So altogether just parboil for 1 minute.
- Take the spinach out and put them immediately in icy cold water to avoid the spinach being cooked furter.
- Squeeze out the excess water and cut the spinach about 4cm/1.5inch long.
- Season spinach with soy sauce and squeeze out excess liquid again before combining with goma ae dressing.
- Adding spinach to the goma ae dressing in the mortar and toss together with the sesame sauce.
- Serve immediately. *4
Green beans (Sayaingen)
- Wash and trim the ends of the green beans and parboil the green beans for 2 minutes.
- Drain the water and cool the cooled green beans under the running water to avoid it being over cooked.
- Add the cooked green beans and toss together until the sesame sauce to coats the green beans well.
- Serve in a small bowl immediately.
- Wash the gobō burdock roots and scrub the skin with a back of a knife.
- Smash the burdock roots with a wooden pestle. This step makes the sesame sauce flavour penetrate well.
- Boil water with the vinegar to prevent oxidation and to remove any astringent taste. Add the prepared burdock and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Drain the water, and toss together with sesame sauce.
- Serve in a small serving dish.